The Spear of Longinus: “Fact or Fiction, or Perhaps Both?”
All legends have to begin somewhere, well don’t they? And the narrative of the blade of Longinus does in my view hark back to that pre-Constantine period of ancient history.
Surprisingly Hollywood hasn’t commissioned a film of The Spear of Longinus as yet. (Perhaps Titanic director, James Cameron could be persuaded to accept directorial film duties if asked. He rather seems to be taking an interest in theology these days, doesn’t he?) But in tinsel town, all things are possible, especially for a quick buck!
But what is Biblical truth is that the Holy Bible in John 19:34-37 proclaims these impelling words: “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” And incidentally the disciple John confirms this bodily account of what he saw that dark day on Calvary Hill.
“It was this Spear upon which the sponge of vinegar was lifted to the mouth of the dying Christ.”
Now tradition, not the Bible, informs us that this officers name was Gaius Cassius.
And he is not to be confused with another of the same name who was involved with the murder of Julius Caesar in Rome (The Ides of March.)
This Roman officer it seems was officiating at the crucifixion as a personal representative of Pontius Pilate no less.
Now hadn’t the prophet Isaiah written: “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.” The bones of Christ had to remain unbroken to fulfil Scripture.
(Eerie corridor to one of Hitler’s rooms)
To prohibit this prediction it is claimed the advisor to the cunning Caiphas was a certain Annas then a temple theologian to the Sanhedrin. He knew that the body of Christ had to be mutilated. And quickly! And wasn’t this just what the high priest wanted to hear from Annas? “Fracture the bones, my lord,” reasoned Annas emphasising each word for effect, “and this Christ be will be shown to be just another-impostor. This incident, however inconvenient for you, will eventually be forgotten, my lord. If you act now-all that this man Jesus represents can be smothered. Within days he will be quickly forgotten.”
Caiaphas must have nodded in agreement then notified Pilate perhaps and planned his conspiracy with others to pervert the precept of God.
Soon a picked detachment of the temple guards and with the authority of Pilate rode out on horseback to darkening Calvary Hill. Fronting them and holding the spear of authority was Gaius Cassius. (He apparently it seems had observed the activities of Jesus for two years and was deeply impressed by what he had heard and learned. Now sadly cataracts had grown over his eyes. Now his vision had grown dim. For this Roman, there would be no overseas postings now or in the future.)
Historically the legendary spear dated back to Phineas the everlasting high priest (Num. 25:11 and Ex. 6:25.) And Joshua it was claimed had held it high as the walls tumbled down at Jericho-forever. Even the young David had been threatened by the hand of King Saul with it. Even Herod had tasted its authority when he initiated the slaughter of the holy innocents.
Both John Chrysostomus, the early church father and the Dominican theologian, Thomas Aquinas were interested and intrigued by the history of the spear. And many Masonic tabernacles and Occult lodges would fervently incorporate its sword into their symbols shields and signets. Wagner would research and compose his opera “Parsifal,” dedicating it to the search of the grails.
Now tradition further maintains that on arrival before the scene of punishment by crucifixion the temple guard thugs began wielding heavy bone clubs upon the dying victims. Both thieves on either side of Jesus: Gestas and Dismas suffered skulls and limbs brutally crushed. It was a disgusting sight that sickened Gaius. He decided there and then that he would never allow such barbarity to be used upon the Saviour of the World.
(Painting on walls looks reminiscent of the flames of Hell)
Now only the defenceless body of Jesus Christ remained in Caiaphas’ henchmen’s sights. And wasn’t this was what they had come for and were paid to do. Sensing this sadistic pleasure in their eyes Gaius charged his horse towards the central cross where the body of Christ was exposed. This swift thinking allowed him to form a protective barrier against the guards and their future actions. Now he was able to thrust the spear into the right side of the body of Christ between the 4/5 ribs. The saving blood did indeed flow and according to popular tradition the failing sight of Gaius, Cassius was miraculously restored!
Now: “Forthwith came there out Blood and water,” as John confirms in his Gospel (19:34.)
So indeed the prediction in Psalm 34:20 was fulfilled: “He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.”
And Ezekiel’s chilling prophecy was confirmed: “They shall look upon him who they have pierced.”
Now the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom and soon darkness would descend upon this place. One would love to have seen the terrified actions of those temple guards as all of this happened around them!
Those other observers who stood near and far and experienced this phenomenon must have been terrified but not I suggest Gaius or the watching faithful of Jesus-some gathered beneath the cross.
The rapid thinking of Gaius must be commended. He remains pivotal to the ending under the cross. For without his immediate action the bones would have been broken-Scripture would and could not have been fulfilled. And: “Christ would have been buried with other criminals and this would not fulfil” (Isa 53:9, Finis Dake’s, Reference Bible Commentary, 1989.)
Doesn’t God always arrange the right person in the right place to accomplish His eternal conception?
God choreographed Gaius to do what he had to do. Only then was Caiaphas defeated-prophecy had been fulfilled. Amen!
(The infamous men’s hostel)
The role of this centurion (with over 100 men under his command) correctly understood that Jesus was the only Son of God. The miracles Gaius had glimpsed and perhaps not fully understood-the many witnesses he had spoken to convinced him of this.
Even Pilate in Mark 15:39-44,45 quickly summons him after the event to confirm that Jesus had expired on the cross. Only when Pilate is convinced of the affirmation from his commander will he release the body to a waiting Joseph of Arimathea, who I suggest is far more than a legendary figure in history. But was a prominent player in what happened in the hours after the crucifixion.
Later, Thomas, the doubting apostle is dumbfounded when Jesus says to him: “…and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless but believing” (John 21:27.)
Yet strangely in Luke 24:39-40 in the resurrection Jesus shows only His hands and feet to the apostles on the road-not the spear wound. Yet later in John 21:28, Thomas submits to Jesus by confirming: “My Lord and My God.” So to should we remember and repeat these words each day in our journey as Christians.
After this factual event, we move now into fiction.
Gaius Cassius would convert fully to Christianity and become known as “Longinus” or the spearman. So we read: “A convert to Christianity, he came to be revered as a great hero and saint by the first Christian community in Jerusalem….it was said for a moment in time he had held the destiny of the whole of mankind in his hands.”
He would later journey to Britain with Joseph of Arimathaea and meet and witness to Queen Boudicca. She would accept Christianity as her faith.
Perhaps the apostle Paul arrived on the shores of England with that selected party of pilgrims. Maybe he came alone years later. I suspect that he did. England was then an important part of the mighty Roman Empire. And interestingly the name of Gaius features often in the Epistles of Paul. So was he the same man?
(Patrick next to the side door)
Paul would return home and journey to Antioch. But could not Joseph and Gaius have died here in England of old age with the mystical spear and grail buried near to them? (Maybe at Glastonbury.) Perhaps one day a future blessing for Gaius is to hold the spear then re-enter the Holy City when Christ returns. Both the spear and chalice I suspect have remained concealed in England and will remain so. Only when Christ returns to Jerusalem will they be brought to Him by decree to hold once more. Men have always sought to find them and to use both for there own evil ways. Politicians or their servants were never meant to discover the secret harbour of the spear and the grail. Indeed how could any organization, corporation or even any religion claim them as their own? By doing so they would forever corrupt them. No. Long ago they were entrusted to Joseph of Arimathaea for protection. Joseph I believe is the Guardian of the Grail, with Gaius the sentinel of the spear and will remain so certainly until the coming Millennium reign of Christ in Jerusalem.
Remember, for over a thousand years England has been blessed without invasion or occupation by foreign armies. The Vikings, the Spanish, the Nazis and others more covert have attempted to invade my country. Perhaps “The Spear of Longinus” has something to do with this blessing. And does not Blake in the wonderful hymn Jerusalem reminds us that the same will be built in England’s green and pleasant land.
However, later a strange demonic incident occurred in Europe that was confirmed by Eusebius, bishop of Lyon in 450AD.
It seems that the famed Roman legion was then composed of Christian soldiers. This, of course, would offer divided loyalties in a pagan Rome. And it did.
When an idolatrous festival occurred Emperor Maximian ordered his troops to observe and celebrate it.
The Roman officer of the Legion was a Christian. His name was Mauritius. Because of his open refusal to kneel and worship he and over 6,000 Roman legionnaires were beheaded as a sacrifice to this false god. Mauritius it seems had apparently somewhere retained “The Spear” in his possession. Perhaps it inspired his decision that ended in his martyrdom. But I suspect that what he had seen or owned was a first-hand facsimile of the original. (In fact, many other spears do purport to be the weapon of Longinus. Many can be found in churches, museums, etc even today.) Mauritius may have seen and held the original sometime in his service to Rome.
Perhaps he was stationed in England with his troops. However, his last recorded words were: “In Christo Morimur.” We die in Christ.
Today we remember him as St. Maurice or San Moritz-yes it’s that famous ski resort in Switzerland home of the “Cresta run.”
Now as we fast-forward through one thousand years of history the spear becomes a symbol somewhat of an awesome authority.
It will be wielded with ruthless results by Emperor Constantine as he moulds the future apostate church to his image.
Many powerful popes will use it for their own personal ends. As well as Charlemagne (AD 800.) “The first Holy Roman Emperor, had founded his whole dynasty on the possession of the Spear and its legend. He would sleep with the Spear under his bed!” Many others will murder to possess its power.
And all of these men will shape the history of old Europe and the New World. So much of their tainted legacy survives today. And, “Over forty-five Emperors had claimed the Spear of destiny as their possession for over a thousand years.”
Then in the 20th century, it will rest in the Hofburg museum in Vienna. When in 1909 a 21-year-old Austrian penniless dreamer will gaze upon it. And claim it as his own to pursue his self-appointed destiny. He is of course Adolph Hitler and would later in prison record the event in the museum in Mien Kemp by saying: “There is a legend associated with this spear, that whoever claims it, and solves its secrets, holds the destiny of the world in his hands for good or evil.”
Years later after a triumphal entry to Vienna in 1938, I suspect that Hitler removed the spear and had it brought to the imperial hotel under S.S. Guard to allow him to examine and admire it.
(The hotel has hardly altered since the Nazis took over a whole floor)
During those terrible war years, Europe would weep and bleed (but not England) death camps would multiply. The terrible curses of Nazism and Communism would leave over 100 million dead. Finally, at wars end the spear was returned to Vienna on command of General Eisenhower where it can be seen today.
In conclusion, I suggest that the spear that influenced so many leaders and it seems even General George Patton, “who believed in reincarnation and had made a study of the search for the Holy grail and was fascinated at the sight of the Spear of destiny.”) Was just a passable a copy of the original. One day in the future the Spear will return to the Holy City perhaps carried by Gaius Cassius.
And the legend of “The Spear of Longinus” will be no more. It will have arrived in its rightful abode. Its spiritual journey completed.
I visited Vienna some years ago primarily to see the homeless shelter that Hitler had called home from 1908-1912. The building was now to be demolished as part of the regeneration task for that area. Hitler would certainly have recognised his old home. (One does wonder if he visited it in 1938-I suspect not.) When I arrived it was being used for immigrants from Eastern Europe. A few sat around smoking and talking quietly. Nothing much changes in these places does it? A helpful warden showed me around. Then allowed me to wander around on my own. I was immediately struck by the leaden atmosphere that pervaded the whole building, but what was strange and almost surreal was the vast neglected garden at the rear that was part of the building that had been built by the Kaiser. This wood was very atmospheric. And just look at those haunted trees!
On the morning of my short visit, I sat there alone under a tree and thought of the thousands of men who had been there before me over the last hundred years. The dreams hopes and prayers that had passed through this orchard. And most I suspect came to nothing. And for a few short years, a young Adolph Hitler must have reclined under perhaps these very same boughs-with his artist’s sketch pad-of course-and dreamed that one day in the future he might rule the world through Nazism with of course “The Spear of Longinus.” And you know what he almost did!
(The heavy atmosphere of the garden remains to this day)
Update, November 2012
In the television series Raiders of the Lost past, an episode concerning the sword and its mystery was aired.
The programme confirms that Hitler had fallen under its allure in 1908 and that before he arrived in triumph in Vienna, Himmler had two plain clothes SS men stand guard over the glass case in the museum. Then as Hitler’s plane landed in Austria, they changed quickly into full uniforms and removed the sword to take it under escort to the Hotel Imperial in Vienna, where Hitler’s party were staying.
Much of its history is in the above article but the news that one of the people interested in its future in the dying days of the war was the flamboyant General George Patton. He it seems had other plans for its future/location.
When American soldiers discovered its secret location in Nuremberg, the General had some years before apparently converted to Catholicism, and may have had the desire or order to dispatch the spear to Rome and not to Vienna, where incidentally it is located today.
Patton’s mysterious death only raises more questions instead of answers.
Recent DNA tests proved there were no blood traces upon its blade and the final dating was approximately the 8th century.
So it has nothing to do with the sword that pierced the side of Christ on the cross and in fact has nothing to do with Bible authenticity at all.
But an entertaining programme to watch if you have the time or inclination.
The Spear of Destiny, by Trevor Ravenscroft, 1972
Well researched by the author and easy to read
And other material and articles
16th March 2007
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